As votes are counted in Philly, demonstrations fill downtown streets
Competing political events took place outside Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center Wednesday as election workers inside scanned ballots that increasingly narrowed results of a presidential race for the state's 20 electoral votes.
Outside the facility, a handful of Republicans gathered around 3 p.m. to cast doubts on the integrity of the ballot counting occurring inside. They conveyed their largely unfounded mistrusts about mail-in ballots to reporters from across the globe who had gathered at the location for a scheduled press conference with President Donald Trump's son, Eric Trump, and other Republicans.
Conservative skepticism around vote counting in the longtime Democratic city was exemplified by Robert Jordan, a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, who said he doesn't trust "anyone who's going to touch my ballot."
"Anytime there's middlemen, there's a chance of mistakes, whether it's by commission or omission," he said.
The Eric Trump press conference ultimately never materialized at the location outside of the convention center despite dozens of police officers who had congregated there to secure the area at 12th and Arch streets.
Instead, Eric Trump spoke at a separate location near the Philadelphia airport, where he said the Trump campaign had "declared victory" in the contentious swing state, despite thousands of ballots that had yet to be counted.
Also at the gathering was Trump attorney and political operative Rudy Giuliani who said Philadelphia election officials prohibited Republicans from observing the vote tallying process. He said the Trump campaign is filing multiple lawsuits against the state.
The remarks follow two years of Giuliani's political efforts to boost Trump's chances at reelection. They featured inquiries by the the former New York City mayor that took him from Ukraine to Delaware.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of largely progressive-leaning demonstrators gathered next to the Liberty Bell, about a mile from the convention center, to call for the city and state to "count every vote" from Tuesday's election.
The 1 p.m. rally featured speakers also calling for reforms, such as a higher minimum wage and enhanced worker protections.
Djenaba Blackwell, a hospitality worker from Atlantic City, was among those who gathered after her local union had organized workers to attend. She expects Vice President Joe Biden to claim victory soon in the presidential race, despite lawsuits from Giuliani and the Republicans.
"With this particular protest, it means a lot because we will have our first Black woman who's going to be vice president," Blackwell said, referencing Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
By 3 p.m., the progressive group marched away from the Liberty Bell toward City Hall. Some splintered off to join the gathering at what was to be the press conference with Eric Trump.
Among those was Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym, who spoke through a bullhorn to say the protesters would not allow the Trump campaign "to steal an election."
"We're here because every single vote represents a story," she said.
The count-every-vote group continued its rally at City Hall until around 5 p.m. At the time, many demonstrators joined a separate adjacent Black lives matter protest that also embraced the previous group's calls for ballots to be counted..
While those calls clearly aligned with the goals of Biden's campaign, at least two speakers at the new City Hall rally called for a progressive "alternative to the Democratic Party."
An organizer with Socialist Alternative organization at the rally declined to say whether the growing rally of hundreds could be a tipping point where Philadelphia's progressive community could continue to claim the reigns of power in the city.
By 6 p.m., the new protest of hundreds of demonstrators resumed their march, moving down Market Street with chants of "Black lives matter," "count every vote" and "Trump, Pence out now."
Contact Karl Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (302) 324-2329. Follow him on Twitter @kbaker6.